Sustainability practices at
At Pacuare Lodge, we are fully committed to sustainable tourism. This means we strive to limit any negative impacts of our operations. At the same time, we have created strong programs to help support conservation and benefit nearby communities. This policy is by no means limited to the Lodge – it extends through our Böëna Wilderness Lodges: Lapa Ríos, Monteverde Lodge & Gardens, and Tortuga Lodge & Gardens.
As pioneers of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica, we have taken many steps to improve our relationship with the environment and local community social development. And we share the lessons we’ve learned with our guests, staff, and the surrounding communities. Through experience, we know that sustainable operations and environmental conservation are not only possible but practical.
Here are a few examples of sustainability in practice in Pacuare Lodge:
Costa Rica’s wild areas face multiple pressures, and Pacuare area is a prime example. Lack of development opportunities, and very few environmental education alternatives, threaten to unbalance the coexistence between local communities and the environment. A coexistence is essential for the survival and well-being of both. After all, the communities around the Pacuare River rely almost entirely on the tourism associated with the river and its surroundings.
We want our guests to know they are helping nature when they stay at Pacuare Lodge. Through a one-time $25/person Pacuare Lodge Conservation Support Fee—less than 1% of a standard vacation—our sustainability programs reach fruition. We engage our guests by sharing regular program reports and updates that demonstrate how important their contribution is. Many guests are even inspired to give more to the fund.
– The Pacuare Lodge was built with minimal impact on the surrounding forest and river. No trees were cut to accommodate the suites and main lodge; our buildings use lumber from a reforestation project run by small farmers. The lodge story involves effort and a unique vision from the owners. Since 1995, we have gone through constant evolution, carrying since the beginning the Böëna Wilderness Pillars.
– Suites, spa, and main buildings design include natural ventilation and illumination.
– Pacuare Lodge was the first adventure travel company to acquire parcels of primary forest in this area solely for the purpose of conservation. Over the years, we’ve purchased 340 hectares (840 acres) of primary rainforest along the Pacuare River both to protect the local ecosystem and to offset the atmospheric carbon created by our vehicles. Some of that forest was in danger of being cleared before we purchased it but is now strictly protected in order to conserve the flora and fauna that lives there. Because our goal is preservation of this untouched virgin rainforest, no visitors are allowed into this area.
– Our electricity comes from clean energy generated by 2 hydroelectrical turbines and 120 solar panels. The energy produced through these high-tech systems if stored in batteries for its responsible use. We have implemented an educational process to include guests’ participation in water and electricity efficient use, as well as staff and operative actions.
– We also implemented a management plan for water and electricity usage, involving guests and staff. This includes a constant invest in technology, data analysis, and reaching for usage reduction.
– We use electric cars (golf carts) our property to transfer our guests and supplies. These are charged at the lodge with clean energy produced in-house.
– Water for suites is solar heated with a high-tech solar panel system installed in each suite or villa.
– All the lodge’s wastewater flows into state-of-the-art septic systems to avoid pollution of the nearby river.
– The lodge’s bathrooms are equipped with biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. All laundry is made with biodegradable soap, and washers and dryers devices allow an efficient use of the electricity produced in-property.
– Pacuare Lodge operates a waste management program that includes all operative departments and guests, including separating inorganic wastes and organic material. Most organic waste is processed in a compost process, and solid wastes are responsibly managed in the local recycling center.
– Single use plastic bottles are not allowed in Pacuare Lodge and we ask our guests to use reusable instead.
– Tuis Farm: A piece of land was acquired 45 minutes away from the Lodge, in which an organic farm was developed, allowing to use organic produce as much as possible in all of our meal options. This was worked as both a source of organic food for the Lodge as well as a vehicle to teach organic farming practices to local community members, including composting to improve our production and quality of produce we provide to our guests and staff. We also support local community commerce with Pacuare Lodge daily operative requirements.
Another important component of our commitment to environmental protection and sustainable tourism is supporting a project to study felines and other species in the Pacuare Protected Zone. Since 2009, Pacuare Lodge has supported the Jaguar Program; we signed an agreement with National University and in addition to providing the researchers with food and lodging, we support cameras and equipment needed for their expeditions including tent camps, batteries for the cameras, and support with local guides.
This collaboration is a result of his growing concern about conservation and the environment, and the need to contribute to the preservation of its ecosystems.
The largest feline in the Americas, the jaguar was once common from the southwest United States to northern Argentina, but it has been eliminated from more than half of its original range during the past century. Those spotted cats continue to be threatened by hunters and ranchers in Costa Rica, where they are increasingly restricted to isolated protected areas that are too small to sustain their species. The jaguar project complements our comprehensive sustainable tourism policy, which includes efforts to decrease the lodge’s environmental footprint, benefit communities near the Pacuare River, and contribute to conservation. Those efforts range from recycling programs at all the company’s facilities to planting trees on former pastureland near the river and using wood from reforestation projects in construction of the Pacuare Lodge.
In recent years, the availability of affordable camera traps with movement sensors has revolutionized wildlife research. National University scientist placed camera traps along game trails in the Pacuare Lodge’s 340-hectare (840-acre) private rainforest reserve, the adjacent Nairí Awari Indigenous Reserve and remote Barbilla National Park. Over the years, she has captured approximately 5,000 photos and videos of mammals there with over 144 cameras donated by July 22. Through the equipment and research over the years, the program has documented that the rainforest surrounding the Pacuare Lodge is home to at least 24 species of large mammal, including five of the six felines native to Costa Rica and other rare species such as Baird’s tapir, the red brocket deer and naked-tailed armadillo. Carolina has used the photos and videos to identify five individual jaguars, since the rosettes – patterns of spots – of any given jaguar are as unique as a fingerprint. These include a rare black jaguar (a.k.a. black panther) a mutation that had only been documented in one other region of Costa Rica.
– A 100% of the Pacuare Lodge staff belongs to the closer communities like Nairi Awari Indigenous Reserve, Bajos del Tigre, Linda Vista, Santa Marta and other nearby communities between Turrialba Town and Siquirres. Pacuare Lodge provides direct or indirect employment to these communities that before lacked any source of formal employment. Their main income used to come from subsistence coriander cultivation and cattle raising.
– Through our Boena Wilderness sister lodges we have a cross training program to improve and share knowledge from property to property, as we believe in empowering our staff and providing growth opportunities.
Sustainable tourism should improve the lives of local people, and we’ve made donations and initiated projects in the communities nearest to the Pacuare Lodge.
– Pacuare Lodge believes responsible tourism should benefit and respect local communities and it consistently works toward this goal. The Lodge is in a remote area which as a result has been poorly maintained over time by local governments mainly due to its inaccessibility by conventional means. Its Community Support Program works to enhance the living standards of people along the Pacuare River and near the lodge by improving the infrastructure in this area.
– Pacuare Lodge supports local schools and provides funds to support environmental education, sports and other social programs in the area. It has restored the cable car service which local residents use to cross the river, and also through the years has helped keep the road accessible to use.
– In addition to teaching our guests about the ecology of the surrounding rainforest, the Pacuare Lodge has launched an environmental education program for schools in nearby communities. Our goal is to raise awareness among local elementary school students of the importance of protecting their environment, and to promote the adoption of good practices that will help them have a more balanced relationship with nature, to live in an ever-healthier environment, and preserve natural resources for future generations. Teams of river guides and Pacuare Lodge staff were trained to give presentations at local schools. The presentations emphasize sustainability, in a practical, simple way, and urge the kids to adopt good habits, emphasizing 4C’s: CULTURE, CONSERVATION, COMMUNITY, and COMMERCE. Among the principal issues we want the children to understand are:
• The importance of water in their environment and the need to conserve water and protect water sources.
• The importance of energy for human beings and the tools and techniques for conserving it.
• Basic concepts about the local flora and fauna and the principals of their protection.
• The basic principles of managing waste in our communities.
• Biodiversity conservation.
Also in education, the lodge serves as classroom for training and basic courses of guiding, English lessons, and food handling, among other subjects, for the Cabecar Indigenous population from nearby reserves.
– We are founders of the Subcorredor Biológico Barbilla-Destierro, better known as “Paso del Jaguar”. This group studies and supports different projects and initiatives for conservation, sustainable production, and ecotourism, among other actions.
– We are founders of Turrialba Foundation, a non-profit organization founded and based in sustainable tourism experiences through Boena Wilderness Lodges and the projects and operations, building options to improve quality living and a sustainable development with our projects and actions.
Fundación Turrialba first name was Turrialba Sostenible and was embraced by the local commerce and services chamber of Turrialba Town. Since the beginning the project was presented to the local government council, and as a result was declared of local interest and then registered as foundation.
– We also support local community commerce with Pacuare Lodge daily operative requirements. Eggs, chicken, cheese, some of the protein required for meals, and other fresh produce is locally sourced.
– We support the Cabecar Indigenous Nairi Awari Reserve with our visits in the Cabecar Indigenous Hike.
– In Pacuare Lodge our guests support the local community through the Rural experience were our guest through their visit to the Bajo del Tigre Community, where many of our staff come from. This is a farming area, that produce spices, roots, and tubers. We promote visiting a local family’s home, trying traditional snacks learning about daily life in a rural Costarican small town, while supporting them through our visit.
– We offer locally produced products for sale at the lodge, for example chocolate and other artisan products like the laundry bags that are hand-made by Tirrases community women leaders.
– Cabecar Indigenous Culture program: At Pacuare Lodge, culture development is carried with the Nairi Awari Indigenous group. We support a group of Cabecar with an area and resources to promote their art, their techniques, using ancestral materials and supplies, helping carry their legacy from generation to generation. We also support them with job opportunities at the lodge, and through our Cabecar Hike Experience, our guests support their economy through learning and sharing, discovering their secrets through the Cabecar trails.
– Cabecar Ranch: sharing and promoting culture also means introducing the Cabecar Indigenous culture and customs to our guests. We use the Cabecar Ranch, built by members of a clan that lives in the nearby Nairi Awari Indigenous Reserve, located a short hike from the lodge, where the son of a local shaman provides visitors with an introduction to his people’s culture and customs.
– We offer the farm-to-table cuisine with traditional Costa Rican dishes included in our regular menu. Our guests can enjoy a delicious Pozol with corn kernels or the Pejibaye soup, the Casado, Caribbean style Ricen´beans, cas sorbet, or the Arroz con Leche.
– Through the Experiences we offer, we promote nature, cultural and culinary learning for our guests, promoting the local culture among our visitors. During our guests stays, Pacuare Lodge includes natural hikes like birdwatching and the Sustainability Tour, were we share some of our actions towards sustainability and we introduce our vision and pillars to our visitors.
We are Fellow Members of The Long Run, a membership organization of nature-based tourism businesses committed to driving holistic sustainability. Each member aspires to maintain a healthy and productive planet for posterity. Collectively, conserving over 23-million acres of biodiversity and improving the lives of 750,000 people. Through The Long Run, we support, connect, and inspire nature-based businesses to excel in the highest sustainable standards via the tried and tested 4C framework: Conservation, Community, Culture, and Commerce (4Cs).
Boena’s Collection of Wilderness Lodges forms part of the National Chamber of Sustainable Tourism (CANAECO). A non-profit organization, CANAECO provides stimulus to develop responsible and sustainable practices across the tourism industry.
Pacuare River has received the highest rating from the Costa Rican government’s Ecological Blue Flag Program for River Watersheds. Rafting and kayaking experts have long considered the Pacuare to be one of the world’s top whitewater rivers, primarily due to the quality of its environment and rainforest scenery. This Blue Flag rating confirms that it is an exemplary natural wonder, and includes working with local communities to involved them in the river’s protection. The company has always taken great care to ensure that the Pacuare Lodge has no negative impact on the river and together with local farmers and guests, is planting trees in the Pacuare watershed. This designation by the Ecological Blue Flag Program for River Watersheds – a pioneer project on a global level – is yet another recognition that the Pacuare is one of Costa Rica’s natural jewels.
In 2018 we had our second evaluation for the Sustainable Tourism Certificate (CST) from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT), receiving the highest level of sustainability as ELITE. The CST is a technical tool to strengthen sustainable tourism industry in Costa Rica. It recognizes the organizations management that work actively to mitigate the impact of the operations. This certification empowers social, cultural, economic, and environmental development in Costa Rica touristic areas.